brothercyst: January 2009

Saturday, January 31, 2009


My story "Amphibian" in Polish...


Stressful/eventful week. In retrospect, I'm fortunate that I didn't get to go to France, although that would have been a good experience. But it would have screwed some other things up pretty badly. Saw a pretty interesting opening by painter Rachel Klinghoffer Bender. Desperately tried to keep up with rising tide of day job stuff... only a matter of time. Wrote some. And Midnight Picnic arrived! For real this time. Reviews appearing soon. (Remember to buy it from the publisher.)

Last night, just kind of relaxed once I finally got home. A. and I watched "Blink," a standalone episode of Doctor Who starring Carey Mulligan that, while a little silly in the execution, is pretty brilliantly written--and Mulligan is a star. Also, the "weeping angels" villains are great.

This afternoon just to give myself a bit of vegetable-brain time I went to see The Uninvited by myself. It's a movie where I thought it was kind of mediocre all the way through, but the end was unexpected and made it a lot better. What kept me rapt throughout the entire thing were the two actresses, Emily Browning and Arielle Kebbel, who are pretty visually interesting. Kebbel is dutifully sexy in a typical Hollywood tall-hot-girl-standing-in-line-outside-a-nightclub way, but Browning looks like an alien from outer space and is absurdly, almost awkwardly fascinating to look at. (Roger Ebert seems to agree; the first three words of his review are "Emily Browning's face".) That weird, wide face! She could be the daughter of David Bowie and Kelly MacDonald. She's got unique presence, too, even in this sometimes-stupid horror movie.

UPDATE TWO MINUTES LATER: Wait, I just searched for her on YouTube and the first thing that comes up is this cringe-worthy montage of her drinking at clubs. Less interesting.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Makes life "interesting."

There's blood in the water. What's the best way for a writer to get health insurance?

Midnight Picnics are in the mail.

February 21st there will be some sort of reading/event/belated birthday party in New York for Midnight Picnic, at KGB Bar. Save the date.

So it goes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


This is pretty fascinating. Shit is scary these days. I don't know where I stand with money, so I'm being careful. I just stash away any money I can, especially because recent conversations lead me to believe I'll be jobless soon.

Anyway, I got the below email from a fellow who is an excellent nonfiction writer and indie newspaper publisher. (He gave me permission to post it.) Intrigued but not sure what to make of it and not inclined to part with $100. You can, though...

Matt Schwartz Tue, Jan 27, 2009 at 1:42 PM
To: Nick Antosca
Hey Nick,

I thought you might be into this bank project, an art experiment that
I'm doing with a couple of friends where we borrow money from friends
and then lend it out at zero interest. Details below and please do
holler if you would like to transact.




Dear Friend,

We're starting a bank, and we'd like you to be a part of it. What we
mean is, we'd like you to lend us a little bit of your money--one
hundred dollars, for about a year. In gratitude, we'll give you a
lovely screenprinted promissory note which legally binds us to pay you
back, and maybe some other goodies as well.

Our bank is called "The Bank of Ink and Ledger." As you've probably
gathered, it is not a traditional bank. We don't have branches,
tellers, or vaults, and we don't have any kind of official backing.
The Bank of Ink and Ledger is more like the informal saving societies
that immigrants organized in the late 19th century. It's a tool for
capital to move around inside a loosely-bound community of trust.

Here's how it works: We're hoping that you'll be one of a few dozen
friends who are willing to lend us $100 for a little more than a year.
Each lender will get a promissory note, a legal IOU. In April 2010,
we'll cancel the notes and return your money. Between now and then,
we'll lend our pot of money out at zero interest to trustworthy
people, the same terms that it's been lent to us.

So our plan is to borrow money from you, and then loan it out again.
The loan you make to us is essentially the same as one of us coming up
to you and asking to borrow $100. We're backing the loan with our good
names. If you know us, we hope you'll know that you'll get your $100
back on time. The loans that we're going to make will have more risk.
Our goal is to find borrowers who are deserving and trustworthy, but
some may still default. If this happens, we'll go into our own pockets
to pay you back. No matter what, you'll get your $100 back on time.

That leaves the question of what's in it for you, the lender. Sure,
you get your $100 back, but what else? Our answer: You get a few
things. 1. A cancelled screenprinted note, which is hopefully worth
the three or four dollars in interest that your $100 would collect in
an ordinary bank. 2. You will have some say (if you want it) in the
administration of the bank and how our money is lent out. 3. If the
project goes well, you *might* get some kind of gratuity. This might
take the form of money or some other form of consideration. 4. You'll
have first dibs on all future promissory note issues.

Thanks for reading this. We've never done this before, and we'd love
to hear your thoughts and suggestions. If you have any questions, or
if you think you might be interested in lending to us, write back and
we'll take things from there.


Jesse Goldstein
Eliza Newman-Saul
Mattathias Schwartz


Jesse found a book by Percival Everett with a cover like Midnight Picnic's.

Also, check this out--Midnight Brunch... by Martin Acosta.

I was looking for a post I did a while ago that showed the covers of John Crowley's The Evening Land and some other book that used exactly the same painting as its cover... but I can't find it.

Sending some copies of Midnight Picnic to people today...

Monday, January 26, 2009


Good! Midnight Picnic now exists in fine, healthy format.

The text has been re-set and everything looks lovely. The cover is shiny.

Official release date is still 2/15, but I will be sending books to some people this week. If you order it there is a pretty good chance you will get it before the official release date, I think.

If you haven't ordered a copy and want to, you can order it from Word Riot here. You can also get it on Amazon.

This is great, I'm relieved.

More soon.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Normal day at work yesterday despite the fact that it was my birthday, or because of, since I never do anything on my birthday to celebrate my birthday. My dad was in town and I had lunch with him and Roger Reynolds, and then in the evening we saw a concert at Juilliard featuring Reynolds' piece performed by the New Juilliard ensemble and a spectacular violinist whose name I can't put here because I seem to have lost the program. (EDIT: Her name was Emilie-Anne Gendron.) That was all good.

Then (after an episode involving the loss of my gloves and, due to a fit of masochistic/acquisitive rage after walking into two Gaps, one Urban Outfitters, and one Banana Republic in search of gloves and finding them all sold out, the expense of an inexcusable amount of cash on a new pair from a store I'd like to ransack and smash) I came home to write, which I did for several hours while occasionally exchanging desultory text messages with people out enjoying themselves. As I was about to go to sleep after 1 AM, my friend D. called to weirdly tell me she was going to a party, but then say I shouldn't go, but then say I should go, but only if I wanted to. So, why not, I went. It was in "Ilya's" apartment and the first people I met were "Igor" and "Olga" and "Giorgi." Yes, it was a bunch of grim, burly Russians. I went to one's apartment--a mistake. "I live in penthouse!" he said in a hilarious guttural accent. The apartment, on the building's top floor but not an actual penthouse, was a wreck, with old food everywhere. The man's paintings were propped all over, as were others by his father, apparently a famous Soviet painter. He claimed they sell for around a hundred thousand dollars, but he kept knocking into them, nearly destroying several on numerous occasions. As he became more and more atrociously drunk, his accent became near-incomprehensible. He seemed not to like me very much and, in what can only have been a bizarre effort at social blocking, kept standing directly in front of me with his back to me. He had a binder full of nude photographs of Natalia Vodianova that he said he'd taken when she was a teenager. He insisted on showing them to us. They appeared to have been taken in a dark, seedy apartment with grime on the walls and junk all over the floor. It made me feel bad for Natalia Vodianova, although I guess she has it all right now. I went on the man's balcony and admired the spectacular view. I listened to people talk in Russian endlessly. They seemed to have forgotten I was there. The other non-Russian guy there was as bored as me, slouching on the filthy sofa and looking half-asleep. A girl in red was there and she kept talking loudly on her phone, and pouting and texting. The father's paintings were pretty interesting in some cases. I wondered how many the son had destroyed by stumbling into them while drunk. After a while I came home and finished the thing I had been working on before. Maybe the first chapter of a new novel, I don't know. It was like 5 a.m.

Oh--and I had some very weird interactions with cab drivers throughout the night. One said that he had until the past few years been relatively well paid as an insurance underwriter, well enough that he bought a house in 128th St... now the house was being foreclosed and he's driving a cab six nights a week. Later I took a cab downtown that I split with the girl in the red, and after she got out, the cab driver--who had been listening in--had a lot to say on the subject of college. We stopped and had a drink.

I've been reading Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi, about the Manson murders. It's not exactly well-written, I wouldn't say, but it's as engrossing as you might imagine. Anyway. The first three weeks of this year were pretty amazing; the last few days have been an unpleasant grind. Russians... day job... money hemorrhage... fuck.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


2008 sucked. It was stagnant. This year, though, has been defined so far by sudden dramatic events. I entered the New Year ecstatic and drunk in a shower in a stranger's apartment (before getting thrown out into the cold). I threw away an entire novel, a year's worth of work. I received a sudden, unexpected gift of tax-free grant money. I got violently, violently sick. I lost money, in a sense, through my day job. I went to Massachusetts and had one of those bursts of creative productivity that only comes once every year or so. It seems like I will probably soon be losing my day job. (Prepared to starve.) I was a guinea pig for a medical study here in the U.S. and they said I qualified to be flown to France next week to be studied there, and paid $2,800. But today they told me I was disqualified.

Tomorrow's my birthday. Old! (26.) Ugh, I just want to live on a fucking island somewhere. Oh wait, I do. Gotta be up all night tonight, just ordered a pizza, steeling myself for disaster, sitting at the old glass table in my living room, ready to work.


IMPORTANT QUESTION: If you had to get across snow without leaving footprints (maybe for just a short distance like fifteen or twenty feet) how could you do it?


John Crowley gets in a driving predicament, gets out.

Monday, January 19, 2009


So the first thing I hear this morning while half-asleep is people out in the living room saying, "How about some football in the snow?" And the next thing, ten minutes later, is Rich coming into my bedroom and saying, "Bad news, Todd dislocated his shoulder." Despite learning how to do so on WikiHow, it was decided that we shouldn't try to pop it back in, so Dan and Rich took him to the hospital.

Now everything is very quiet and has been for a while. I've been drowsing.

Listen to this clip of a radio show in Britain where they asked people to call in with the weirdest thing they'd ever eaten, and a woman called in to say she'd eaten little girls.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


I've spent the past two days in a sort of binary mode. Extreme, almost ravenous (except of course that word's a little off since I'm not consuming, I'm producing) creative energy--or sleep. I'm at Tom's house in Massachusetts, mostly hidden away in bedrooms. I really, really need a better place to write in general. During the times when everyone's asleep or out skiing or whatever, it's so extraordinary to be isolated in this house for hours, writing steadily. The last time I felt this energetic was about a year ago, almost exactly, when I spent two weeks alone in a house in the woods. Does anyone know any wealthy people who let writers, or would let a writer, crash in their house (perhaps care for their house) for some extended period of time and write?

Not only am I dying to see Bronson, but I've become obsessed with that classic Pet Shop Boys song in the trailer, "It's A Sin." It'd been years since I last heard it. I forgot what it reminded me of... it's Cat Stevens' "Wild World."

What I've been working on is a project that came to me suddenly and is an experiment, I guess. In terms of how much I usually write in one sitting or one day, I've written an astonishing amount in the past 48 hours. But as a fraction of all the things I still need to be doing, it's a bit.


update: Taking a break from writing at 2 am Saturday night. My mind is just churning lately, I feel like I'm expending too much energy and I'll die young when my brain runs out or something. But are they even good ideas I'm generating? Tonight I ran outside naked for a little while in the deep-ish snow (wearing shoes). It was amazing. I'm going to do it again. Briefly exhilarated. Before that (clothed) found a frozen creek and cracked the ice with a makeshift stave.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I'm addicted to baths*. I seriously have a problem going a day without taking a bath (and this is in addition to swimming every day; I really don't feel right if I haven't been in the water). In part this is because I like to read in the bathtub. The internet can't distract me. Nor can the phone or the TV. (Although admittedly, if I'm waiting for something important, I might set the phone beside the bathtub.) I can read several chapters of something straight through, or read a whole magazine. Before I quit smoking, I liked to smoke in the bathtub.

Thursday night I'm going to Tom's** house in Massachusetts ostensibly to go skiing. But I'm not going skiing. I don't even know how to ski! I'm just going to hide away in a bedroom the whole weekend and write and occasionally emerge to banter.

In the bathroom attached to the bedroom I got last time (and hope to get again!) there's a big jacuzzi style bathtub. I love this. If I take breaks drowsing in the large warm bathtub with the water jets, I estimate I will be 25% more productive this weekend. Then it'll be back to the small, grimy, oddly comforting bathtub in my own apartment.

Tonight, though, I go to a medical study center to spend the night (and all day tomorrow) with a bunch of sensors and wires attached to my body in preparation for an experimental drug trial. Am excited.

*and heroin.
**Tom cleared the air on Youtube about that website, Now we can have a peaceful vacation.

Monday, January 12, 2009


Thomas McGuane reading James Salter's Last Night on the New Yorker.

One of my favorite short stories ever.

N. Sellyn sent the link along.


I heard Bronson is good:

Friday, January 09, 2009


The second story I read at the reading was "Rat Beast." If you didn't buy it from ML press when it came out, it's sold out now, so you can't. But you can listen to me practicing it last night, here.


So on this morning at 4 am I woke up extravagantly sick. I didn't know my body could sweat that much. It wasn't like droplets of sweat trickling down me, it was like rivers. I watched rivers of sweat run down me. And when I tilted my head to the side, it rained on my shoulder. I've never seen anything like it. And I threw up for twelve hours straight. It was one of those falling-into-a-thin-sleep-on-the-bathroom-floor days. How did this happen? There are three possibilities.

1) I ate a hamburger at 3 the previous afternoon. Food poisoning?
2) I drank a LOT of of water and cranberry juice Thursday night trying to flush my system of toxins/drugs. Water intoxication?
3) Wild card. I just got a virus somewhere?

Anyway I was an absolute shell of a human all day. Didn't go to work, canceled an appointment. I'm visibly thinner today than I was 24 hours ago. If I clench my teeth you can see that my cheeks are hollower, and if I take off my clothes, my stomach is actually concave. With absolutely no food in my body, I have the physique of a first-month Dachau prisoner.

But this was the day--ironically--of the Sane Young Writers with Good Hygiene reading (as I lay naked, half-conscious, and reeking of stomach acid on my floor) at KGB with Ned Vizzini, Karan Mahajan and me. Here's a picture of us from tonight. So I dragged myself into a cab and went uptown, did the reading, and came home. The reading was great--KGB was packed with a huge, very enthusiastic crowd. Now I'm home and I'm going to rest in bed for about 36 hours.

Thursday, January 08, 2009


Tomorrow (Friday) night at 7, I'm reading at KGB (85 East 4th St.) with Ned Vizzini and Karan Mahajan. I'm probably going to read a couple short things, one of which is the unpublished very short story "Playground in the Fire," which I wrote at the same time as "Rat Beast" and which is about the same length.

I read it once tonight out loud to make sure it would be all right and maybe make a change or two. I recorded it, so if you can't make the reading and want to hear a story, click here to listen to it, although it's not quite a "performance." It's about 8 minutes long. Occasionally you'll hear me stop to change something.


Also--amazing scans of old Edward Gorey book The Recently Deflowered Girl.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


I saw Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project speak today along with Alan Newton, who spent 22 years in prison before DNA evidence proved he was innocent. It is pretty riveting stuff. They have freed hundreds of innocent convicts.

Newton has a mesmerizing demeanor. I'm not sure how old he is--presumably in his forties, if not early fifties--but he looks much younger, and has a certain scary concentration in his demeanor that you sense is at least partly the result of the mental effort of staying sane and fighting for his life while locked up in jail for two decades. (Scheck alluded to many innocent prisoners who "implode," "go crazy," "give up," or "lose the will to fight.")

Both men discussed two kinds of evidence that seem solid but are unreliable: eyewitness testimony and confessions. Eyewitness testimony is just notoriously shaky. When presented with a lineup, witnesses will often pick the person who looks most like the person they saw... even if it's not identical to the person they saw.

And DNA evidence has proven that numerous defendants who confessed were actually innocent--they confessed because they were threatened, lied to, or worn down by long interrogations. One 16 year old (Tankleff... if you live near NY or NJ you may know this one) confessed to his father's murder after being told his father had woken up, been shot up with adrenaline, and identified his son as the killer. Another man confessed to five rapes after hearing about the sentence he was likely to receive if he didn't take a deal... the actual rapist then traveled around the country for years, raping hundreds of women.

Alan Newton:

Oh yeah, one another thing: the Innocence Project is one of the many social justice programs and charities badly burned by the evil sociopath Bernie Madoff (how has this man not committed suicide yet? come on, Bernie... YOU CAN DO IT).

I just donated some money to them. Consider doing so, it's a good investment in your mood in addition to being a good thing to do.

Friday, January 02, 2009

It was just pointed out to me that my short story "Soon You Will Be Gone and Possibly Eaten" was nominated for "Horror Short Story published in 2008" in this website's reader's poll. I voted for myself. I'm not sure if I win anything (except honor!). Go vote for me and GUD magazine.

Have a nice weekend, don't be depressed, it's only dark out because of science, not because of you.

Underappreciated: William Sleator

Recently I've been thinking back to books I've read and loved. Most readers, I think, like to return to old favorites and either reassess or reassure. One book I've been rereading is The Magus. It still seems excellent but now, as a "young man," I find that I read it as a completely different book than I did as an adolescent or barely-into-college student.

In the bookstore the other day I saw a book by an author I had almost forgotten: William Sleator. He writes YA science fiction novels and from the ages of about 9 to 14 or 15, I used to read them all the time. The best ones I remember were Singularity, House of Stairs, Interstellar Pig, Fingers, and maybe one or two others. (I also saw him speak once at Yale, when I was a freshman. He lives in Asia, I believe.)

Anyway, I picked up Singularity again. I reread the whole thing last night (it's slight at ~170 pages). It is fucking great! I loved it as a kid--and it is way better than I remembered. An elegant, excellent novella. You can buy a new copy for $6.99 and, despite the silly kid's cover ("It's not a playhouse... It's a portal to TERROR!"), it's more than worth it. Do it... get it... read it now.

The book's about twin 16-year-old brothers who stay in the rural house of a dead uncle about whom they know nothing except that cattle from neighboring farms used to wander over to his land and come back all... rickety. I won't divulge more of the plot (go buy the book but don't read details of what it's about!), I'll just say that while the science is sometimes laughable, the conceit is ingeniously conceived and put to perfect use. About two-thirds of the way into the book, the narrator makes an unexpected (but marvelously logical) decision that takes the plot in a whole new direction, and Sleator suddenly turns the story into this strange, zen prison diary. And the climax is perfect, smart, and unexpected.

Sleator's craftsmanship is really worthy of admiration. Singularity is a near-perfectly paced and structured story. Why is this guy not writing screenplays that sell for $1M each? (Somebody should certainly make Interstellar Pig a movie.) Sleator is way underappreciated. His Wikipedia page hilariously compares him to either R.L. Stine or Kafka. Now I need to reread House of Stairs and see if it's also as excellent as I remember.

Thursday, January 01, 2009


Tobias Carroll wrote a capsule review of Midnight Picnic (scroll down). I like that he mentions "The Specialist's Hat," I love that story. I don't know Tobias Carroll, I wonder if Impetus sent him a galley when they were handling things.

I should talk more about Kelly Link. Kelly Link is amazing and cool. She is one of my favorite writers alive. Who are the others? Maybe Alicia Erian and James Salter. Nobody else writes stories like Kelly Link. "The Hortlak" is one of my favorite stories of all time.

Here's something to do today. If you have a gift card for Christmas that you can buy books with, buy "Magic for Beginners" by Kelly Link.

Going back to bed, tired, in pain.


yeah never mind that last post, it was actually good this year.